Bellamy tells his side of Portugal incident

Craig Bellamy has spoken publicly in a little more detail about his side of the infamous incident in Portugal which hit the headlines just before Liverpool’s Champions League victory in Barcelona. The stories revolved around an argument between Bellamy and team-mate John Arne Riise, with allegations that Bellamy had attacked Riise with a golf club.

Most of the allegations seemed to start off in the Norwegian media, with a strong feeling that Riise himself had been the indirect source of the claims that had been published. Liverpool’s only announcement was that it was an internal matter and would be dealt with internally. By the time Bellamy was interviewed after the Barcelona game, where he celebrated his goal with a mock golf swing, he said the whole incident had been made bigger by “you guys”, referring to the media.

Now Bellamy has told The Mirror’s Oliver Holt about what really happened – or at least his side of the story anyway. As in the reports, Bellamy said the row did start off when Riise refused to be dragged up to do a bit of singing: “It started when we were all doing a bit of karaoke. I only sang one song and that was Red, Red Wine by UB40, that was because Jerzy Dudek was drinking it. That’s how silly it all was. A lot of the other lads wanted Riise to get up there next because he hadn’t turned up at the dinner earlier and I tried to get him up, too.”

According to Craig, the left-back wasn’t willing to sign and wasn’t too happy about being asked: “I wasn’t that bothered whether he wanted to sing or not so I sat back down but he wasn’t too happy about me trying to get him to sing so he let me know about it. The situation was calmed down then but when I was walking back to the hotel with Steve Finnan, who I was rooming with, I lost control for a few seconds, and that was really about it.”

Bellamy went on: “I went and confronted Ginger and I said to him ‘don’t be doing that in front of the players again’.” From the way Bellamy has hinted at what John Arne had been like in the bar earlier, it does seem that it was the Norwegian who lost control first, and a public scene was the result. Bellamy seems to have felt embarrassed about it all, and brooded about it for a while before deciding he had to put Riise straight.

“I didn’t want to cause a scene in front of everybody else. I just wanted to talk to him about it alone.”

And that’s as much detail as Bellamy goes into – on the record at
least. And he seems happy to take responsibility for what happened
(plus the reported £80,000 fine) and is glad that Riise has been OK
about it: “You know, John’s been great about it, really. Straight away
the next morning, we were training together. There’s no problem now.”

In fact not only did the feuding pair get straight back to training
together as if nothing had happened, Bellamy feels that the incident
has actually improved team spirit. He told the paper that his
team-mates have dubbed him Tiger and Seven Iron

As for the golf-swing celebration, it was something he’d worked out
with fellow striker Peter Crouch: “I saw some people saying my golf
swing celebration at the Nou Camp was in bad taste, but I didn’t know I
was playing until an hour before the kick off. So I had a deal with
Crouchie that if one of us scored, that’s how we’d celebrate. It was
between me and him.”

Bellamy’s past reputation was noteworthy enough that Rafael Benítez
wanted to make sure there wasn’t enough truth in it to make the signing
a bad idea. The signing went ahead because Rafa felt confident that
Bellamy was first of all not as bad as that reputation made him sound,
and also that he could keep the Welshman in check. Bellamy accepts that
he’s not all good: “I’ve got the bad boy tag and some of it’s
justified, but some of it’s exaggerated, too.”

Some of that “bad boy” persona might relate to his days at Newcastle
United. A one-club city, the locals were willing to give him the status
of a Hollywood star, and he regrets the way he reacted to that: “When I
was at Newcastle and people were treating me like a hero, I started to
think I could do what I want. I got wrapped up in all that rubbish. But
now I hate going out. I hate leaving my house. I have never been out in
Liverpool. I don’t even go to the shops. I hate the way football is

He hates the way that the intrusion into private lives is so much more
marked than it was for the players who were Craig’s own idols: “Who
wants to know about footballers’ wives? I’m amazed. That’s not my idea
of football. Football’s gone crazy. If some wives can earn money and
get themselves on TV, then great. But who wants to know what they’re
doing? I don’t. And I never did when I was a kid. Ian Rush was my hero.
I didn’t want to know how much he earned or what kind of house he lived
in. All I was worried about was how many goals he’d scored and how many
championships he had won.”

It seems Craig is the custodian of the remote in the Bellamy household:
“If my wife starts watching the Wags stuff now, I’ll turn it straight
over. That won’t get two minutes in my house.”

Bellamy is in the public eye whether he likes it or not, and the recent
tales about what went on in Portugal were playground gossip amongst the
mates of his eldest son, ten-year-old Ellis: “Sometimes, I’ll go and
pick him up from school and he’ll have heard something about some
situation I’ve been in on the radio or his mates will have mentioned
it. He gets into the car and looks at me and says: ‘So what’s my dad
been up to now?’”.

The striker spent some time in Ireland at the weekend, reportedly
taking in the Six Nations clash between Ireland and England, before
crossing the border to meet friends in Belfast. Video clips have
circulated of him trying to have a drink with friends but having to
endure idiots shouting his name incessantly. He finds this kind of
attention difficult to deal with: “Sometimes, I feel embarrassed being
a footballer. I enjoy playing and training but everything else outside
it, I just want to curl up and not be associated with it. I struggle
with it when I go out and you can tell people are looking at you. It’s
probably my own paranoia as well. I always think someone’s watching me
if I go to a shop, watching what I’m buying. They’re probably not.”

He hates staying in, but says that the only way he can really go out
and put the paranoia behind him is to have a drink: “I’ve got to get
out or I get kind of claustrophobic. I don’t know if it’s right me
saying this but the only way I can get away from that is when I have a
drink. I have switched off then. If people are looking, I don’t care.”
There is a price to pay though: “The thing is, I’m also more likely to
snap at someone if I’ve had a drink. It’s exactly that. Believe it or
not, I very rarely drink, which is probably a good thing.”

Although he isn’t sure why there is so much interest in “Wags”, he does
tell the Mirror about his wife. They were 14 when they started going
out with each other, and had their first son (Ellis) at 17. After
getting married last summer they’re now looking forward to their third
child being born in the next few months. His wife, like most of his
true friends, all belong to the life he had before he made a success of
himself in football, and he feels that keeps his feet on the ground:
“I’m very lucky – my wife lived round the corner from me on the
Trowbridge Estate in Cardiff when we were growing up. Clare would be
with me if I was living in a council flat doing nothing. She would
still be with me then. I know that for a fact. I’m very lucky.”

The struggles of his earlier days starting out in football have stayed
with him: “We don’t particularly need anything any more and I miss
that. I remember what it was like when I was a YTS at Norwich earning
£44 a week. We had a kid then as well. I couldn’t even get £10 out of
the bank to get wet wipes. I remember going into a shop and thinking ‘I
wish I could have that’. I miss the buzz of not having stuff and
wanting it. Being able to have everything I want can sometimes do my
head in a little bit. I prefer the chase.”